25 Ways to Improve Sleep
By Anthony DePalma on August 6, 2013
Sleep is Important
You'll spend one third of your life asleep. One third! The quality of your waking life depends on the quality of your sleep, so you owe it to yourself to make the best of it.
Here is a list of 25 ways to improve your sleep.
Clear Your Head
A restless mind creates a restless body. Before you go to sleep, externalize everything you need to remember so you can stop worrying about them. Check out Reducing Mental Clutter for more advice about clearing your mind.
Clean Your Room
A clean room provides a more relaxing environment than a messy one. The less things there are in your bedroom, the less things there are for you to worry about. I prefer a minimalist bedroom so that I associate it with sleep and nothing else. Check out Reducing Physical Clutter for more advice about shedding possessions.
Prepare for Tomorrow
Put your clothes out and plan your breakfast. A little preparation provides a lot of relaxation before bed.
A hearty exercise routine is guaranteed to get you to sleep sooner. Just avoid exercising immediately before bed, or it will disrupt your circadian rhythm.
Avoid Bright Screens
Staring at a television, phone, or computer screen immediately before bed disrupts your circadian rhythm. Declare a moratorium against all screens for at least a half hour before bed.
Your last meal of the day should be at least 2-3 hours before bed. Food digests slowly when you are lying horizontally, and it's likely to keep you awake and make you feel bloated in the morning.
Depressants, found in alcohol or medication, might make it easier to fall asleep (or pass out), but the quality of your sleep will be extremely poor due to dehydration and frequent awakenings.
Stimulants, found in caffeine or nicotine, increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure, which is the worst possible thing you can do before bed. Avoid coffee, soda, and cigarettes for at least 4 hours before sleep.
Drink More Water, or Drink Less Water
If you are dehydrated, you should certainly drink more water before bed to help your body recover. But if you are already hydrated, drinking too much water will likely interrupt your sleep with several trips to the bathroom. Find the right balance that works for you.
For example, if you frequently wake up an hour before your alarm to go the bathroom, drink more water to wake you up earlier in the night, when its easier to fall back asleep.
Make It Dark
Your eyes are very sensitive at night, so turn off anything in your room that creates a bright glow. If you can't make your room dark enough, consider purchasing a Sleep Mask to simulate darkness.
Background noise or music is helpful in loud environments where unpredictable sounds can wake you up at night. Consider purchasing a White Noise generator, or listening to peaceful music while you sleep.
I do not recommend the radio or anything that's unpredictable. Personally, I consider The Postal Service to be the perfect sleep music.
Breathe Through Your Nose
Your nose naturally filters the air you breathe and protects you from sore throats. Clear your nose before bed, and resist the urge to breathe through your mouth. If you have trouble inhaling, consider buying drug-free Nasal Strips to open the airflow through your nostrils.
Check Your Septum
To test your septum, simply clear your nose, and then breathe in and out while covering your nostrils one at a time. Is the airflow obstructed on either side? If so, you may have a deviated septum. Getting your septum straightened makes it easier to breathe and prevents a tendency to breathe through your mouth.
Check Your Tonsils
Oversized tonsils can obstruct your airway and even cause Sleep Apnea. If your tonsils are too big, consider getting them removed - your heart will thank you later.
Filter the Air
If you sleep in a dusty room or live with pets, consider purchasing an air filter for your bedroom. Having a filter prevents your nose from clogging up to allergens and dust.
Stretching before bed is a great way to prepare your body for the long night ahead. Get into a routine of quickly stretching each muscle before and after sleeping for the best results.
Assume the Position
Most studies agree that sleeping on your stomach is the worst position due to the misalignment of your spine and strain on your neck. If you sleep on your stomach, consider training yourself to sleep on your back or your side.
Sleeping on your back is the most stable and symmetrical, and can prevent strains and wrinkles on your skin. However, there is an increased risk of snoring, which can be mitigated by your pillow type.
Purchase a pillow that works best with your sleeping position. If you sleep on your back you should use a low pillow to prevent your head from crunching forward. If you sleep on your side you should use a high pillow to maintain a neutral alignment with your spine.
You can also consider a Cervical Pillow if you suffer from neck problems, or supplemental body pillows to elevate your legs. Just make sure you only sleep with what you use, or you're bound to be distracted by a sea of unnecessary pillows.
Finding a quality mattress is expensive, but sleep is nothing to scrimp on. There are many different kinds of mattresses, but the only way to determine what's best for you is by trial. Most stores will let you try a mattress for a risk-free trial period, so take advantage of that if you're shopping around. You'll benefit from the right decision for the rest of your life, so take your time and do your research!
Studies have shown that a cold room (65F-70F) is the ideal sleep environment, assuming you have warm blankets. You'll want to avoid drastic changes in temperature, so don't sleep directly under an air vent or near an open window on chilly nights.
If your feet get cold, make sure your blankets are tucked in under the bed to trap your body heat under the covers. Failing that, try adding another blanket across the bottom of the bed, or putting on a pair of warm socks.
Your sleeping attire should be one thing: comfortable. You're not trying to impress anyone here. Avoid anything that's tight fitting or binding. Also, avoid wearing your sleepwear outside, for the sake of the rest of us.
Your blankets should be warm and comfortable. I prefer to have one comforter inside a duvet cover, and a warm soft blanket underneath. With multiple layers I recommend avoiding down comforters, simply because it made my bed too hot at night. Consider a Down Alternative for a great balance of warmth and comfort.
You'll generally have to choose between warm clothes or warm bedding. Personally, I prefer extra warm blankets and light cotton clothing.
Wake Up After a REM Cycle
Your body completes a REM cycle on average once every 1.5 hours. Waking up before a REM cycle can leave you feeling groggy or lethargic. To prevent this, schedule your alarm on any interval of 1.5 hours after you fall asleep. Keep in mind that it takes an average of 10-20 minutes to actually fall asleep after getting in bed.
Don't end a relaxing night of sleep with a loud, piercing alarm clock. Invest in an alarm that will wake you up peacefully. Personally, I use my smart phone on a media dock with a Custom Alarm.
All of these suggestions are useless if you don't allot yourself enough time to sleep. Allow yourself a minimum of 6 hours of sleep every night, and a maximum of 9 hours. 7.5 hours is widely considered to be ideal, but be sure to factor in the time it takes you to actually fall asleep to correspond with the end of your REM cycle.
You should have no excuses when it comes to the amount of time you sleep. Sleeping less isn't going to make you any more productive; It's only going to wear you out.
Create a Goal called Improve Sleep and measure it by objectives completed. Add any relevant improvement opportunities as objectives and tackle them one at a time.